Michael Gove admits PM's Brexit deal is 'uncomfortable' because it ties UK to EU customs union

The leading Brexiteer refused to deny he nearly walked out of the Cabinet after the PM agreed her deal with Brussels.

And he hit out at Chancellor Philip Hammond for claiming Britain will end up worse off after Brexit.

Mr Gove, the Environment Secretary, is believed to have considered quitting in protest against the withdrawal agreement.

Asked about his threatened walkout, he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "I reflected long and hard but concluded that while it’s imperfect it’s the right thing to do.

"We should not make the perfect the enemy of the good."

He confirmed he's worried about the "backstop" which is designed to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

The backstop will tie the UK to Europe's customs union permanently unless it's replaced by an alternative trade arrangement backed by both sides.

Mr Gove said: "I would have preferred it if we had a unilateral right of exit – it is uncomfortable for me."

But he insisted the backstop would never be needed because Brussels is even more wary of the arrangement than the the UK is.

He singled out Emmanuel Macron as one EU leader who is keen to strike a comprehensive trade deal so French fishermen get access to British waters.

Mr Gove joked: "We've got him over a barrel of herring and a barrel of mackerel."

The minister refused to say what he'd like to happen if the Commons votes down Mrs May's Brexit deal in nine days' time.

But he hinted he could support a "Norway-style" plan which would keep the UK in the single market via the European Economic Area.

Mr Gove said: "Being in the EEA or Efta is better than EU membership."

He warned against the idea of holding a second referendum on Brexit, warning it would "undermine faith in democracy and rip apart the social fabric of this country".

But he also said a No Deal outcome would end up damaging the economy – although he insisted the Chancellor is wrong to forecast an economic hit from Brexit under all circumstances.

Mr Gove said the row over the Brexit forecasts was "a rare occasion where there is a scintilla of difference" between him and Mr Hammond.

The Government faces another crunch week as ministers prepare for the Commons vote on Mrs May's deal which will take place on December 11.



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